Crush & Drink a Priceless Pearl:
Fate of the Gresham Pearl

The Gresham Pearl is no longer with us, but retains its fame.



During the reign of Queen Elizabeth, Sir Thomas Gresham, the merchant prince, was credited with possessing a pearl valued at 15,000 pounds which he reduced to powder and drank in a glass of wine to the health of the queen, in order to astonish the Spanish ambassador, with whom he had laid a wager that he would give a more costly dinner than could the Spaniards. (Lawson, "History of Banking," 1750, pp. 24, 25.)

Portrait of Sir Thomas Gresham (circa 1519-79) from "Memoirs of the Court of Queen Elizabeth"
Portrait of Sir Thomas Gresham (circa 1519-79) from "Memoirs of the Court of Queen Elizabeth"

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No other information regarding this pearl seems available. The valuation certainly appears excessive when compared with that of some other pearls of that period.

We quote an item from Burgon, (Burgon, "The Life and Times of Sir Thomas Gresham," London, 1839, Vol. I, P.69.) taken from the manuscript journal kept by Edward VI:25 (April 1551). A bargain made with the Fulcare for about 60,000 L. that in May and August should be paid, for the deferring of it. First, that the Foulcare should put it off for ten in the hundred. Secondly, that I should buy 12,000 marks weight at 6 shilinges the ounce to be delivered at Antwerpe, and so conveyed over. Thirdly, I should pay 100,000 crowns for the very faire juel of his, four rubies marvelous big, one orient and great diamount, and one great pearle.

As told by George Kunz and Charles Stevenson in "The Book of the Pearl".

Main famous pearls and collections after Gresham Pearl.
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